Summer is here, and with it – festival fever. The season for camping, droning on endlessly about what bands you’re going to see at Glasto, and sourcing the latest must-have footwear – Hunter wellies are de rigueur for any self respecting muso hipster this year.
Topshop, not content with being the fashion giant of the High Street, decided to grab a bit of the action this year. But for them, festivals are so passé: picnics are totally on trend this season. Bandstand picnics to be precise.
Held in four different venues around the country, the Topshop Bandstand Picnics showcase up and coming talent, as well as offering other, er, entertainment such as roller skating and sports day events all for the Primark-friendly price of £10. Held in association with the Teenage Cancer Trust, all profits go to a demographic-friendly charity.
The Liverpool event was held in the Isla Gladstone Conservatory at Stanley Park, not a location usually associated with music events, but as Africa Oye was monopolizing Sefton Park, and the fragile shoegazers were in danger of being drowned out by a rampant chorus of djembe drums, the other side of town seemed a sensible choice.
The line up included Welsh agit popsters Los Campesinos! (pic), Sting’s daughter’s band I Blame Coco, folk starlet Blue Roses and DJ sets from Abi Harding & Candie Payne, a good mix of quirky pop and whimsy folk.
Let’s set the scene. It was quiet. Very quiet. Deckchairs were set out around the bandstand, tents hawked jewellery, offered makeovers and Top Shop fashion tips, and Miquita Oliver was presiding over affairs. It was unmistakably an event run by the Topshop PR machine: with branded parasols and cute cupcakes, their target audience of fashion conscious girls always in the crosshairs.
First up, Blue Roses. A singer-songwriter from Yorkshire with a more than a touch of Bat for Lashes style melancholy, she was pleasant enough to listen to but suffered due to the acoustics and a poor sound system. In a grim re-enactment of her performance in the bar at The Masque during last year’s Sound City, her set became little more than pretty background music to people chatting, the al fresco version of a jazz lounge pianist.
Next up was Abi Harding and Candi Payne, two of Liverpool’s cool kids – more thrift shop chic than Topshop. Playing a fairly standard DJ set which included Michael Jackson and Grandmaster Flash, they looked nonplussed to be here which, given the complete lack of atmosphere at this stage, was understandable.
By this point we’d been there for a couple of hours and enthusiasm was starting to wane. I Blame Coco, featuring Sting’s prodigal daughter, tried to inject a bit of balls into the proceedings, but their particular style of electro angst pop fell flat, with upcoming single Selfmachine garnering lacklustre applause.
The headlining act, Los Campesinos!, an eight strong crew on the cusp of indie pop greatness for a few years, played an accomplished set but lacked the crowd interaction usually present at their gigs, and their pseudo punk lyrics seemed out of place on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
So, a nice idea poorly executed. Lack of promotion and a silly starting time lead to poor attendence (we counted around 100. They were hoping for 500) and PA problems took the focus off the music.
The involvement of the Teenage Cancer Trust wasn’t clearly communicated either. Oddly, the picnics were designed to highlight the damage done to our skin by sunbathing. But, apart from a brief mention of a text message service which alerted you when to stay out of the sun to avoid burning (or when to get the best tan as Liverpool girls might alternatively see it) by Miss Oliver, this seemed, as Sister Sledge might have said, lost in music
In a city which has a Tanerife sunbed shop on every corner, and dayglo orange is the most common skin tone; it probably would have been something worth taking away from this odd day out in the park.